my new employee refused to help a coworker

A reader writes:

Today I had my first 1:1 with a new employee. At the time he was hired, we were filling two roles, one mid-level and one entry-level, and they both started last week. He did not interview well enough for the mid-level position, but we offered him the entry-level role and he accepted. However, today it was clear that he is upset about being at a lower level than the rest of the team and indicated that he would not help the other new employee since they were at a higher level than him. I had them doing initial training together, as the technical skills are the same, but the higher level candidate has soft skills that this disgruntled employee lacks. Today he asked how soon he could be promoted, and when he could shadow a team whose work is well outside the scope of the role for which he was hired.

Is it reasonable that I’m a little miffed? I want to support his professional growth, but when I said it wasn’t possible for him to join them within a year (there’s a one-year mark for promotion considerations), he was shocked. What is the best way to reset his expectations? Am I crazy to expect him to work on the team that hired him?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Student employees are using me for therapy
  • Employee comes in on his days off to use a computer
  • “Is this employee eligible for re-hire?”

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Lilo*

    New employee, already pushing boundaries and saying he won’t do job duties? Just fire him. It won’t get better.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yep. Already saying he won’t help while asking for a promotion. Cut bait. Save yourself the headache of trying to save this hire.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      There’s a sort of irony here in that by carrying on the way he is, he’s demonstrating a lack of exactly the type of soft skills that would cause someone to be hired at mid or senior level rather than junior! I bet he’s thought to himself “pfft, I’ll get my foot in the door with this junior job that is obviously beneath me and then as soon as they see how great I am, they’ll give me the other job after all” and then this has morphed quickly into wanting to move into some other team.

      I’ve only ever seen this work out (and the person adjust their attitude) once. The other times, it’s ended in tears sooner rather than later due to a series of incidents (all symptomatic of an underlying issue).

    3. Margaret Cavendish*

      Yup. I hired this person once as well – in addition to everything in the letter, she also made a colleague cry, in her first week. She was fun! (/s) She quit before we could fire her, but that was just a matter of timing – she was definitely not going to get any better.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. His first meeting with the boss and he is telling her he won’t do what he is asked to do and that he wants to be promoted to something in another department? It is easier to fire someone at the beginning than when they are entrenched. I’d fire him.

  2. Ashley Armbruster*

    slowly gets popcorn for #1

    I need an update on this now! LOL This employee is going to be super entitled and likely isn’t the hardest worker.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Me too!! I am an AAM old-timer (not OG, but I’ve been here awhile) and I remember this question from the first time around. I don’t recall that we’ve ever gotten an update on it and I really hope that OP is still here and able to give us one!

  3. Big Bird*

    I am channeling my bank-employee-in-another-life-self but I see coming in on a day off “to use the computer” as a huge red flag. Does this person have any financial responsibility or over sight? A number of internal financial frauds depend on certain transactions being carefully timed to cover prior transactions. In my bank-employee days we were required to take at least two consecutive weeks of vacation for just that reason,

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      I also come from a bank environment where we had that restriction and, yeah, coming in and using a work computer on days off “for the internet connection” is a red flag.

      Also, if it’s a work computer, it’s supposed to be used for work stuff. So if he’s not doing work stuff, he shouldn’t be doing it on a work computer.

      If he is regularly the office doing work stuff on his paid time off, he’s not actually taking his time off, which leads to all sorts of other fun issues with regards to PTO.

      1. Antilles*

        Also, if it’s a work computer, it’s supposed to be used for work stuff. So if he’s not doing work stuff, he shouldn’t be doing it on a work computer.
        This might vary by industry because I’ve never worked at a company that cared at all if I did occasional non-work stuff on my work PC, printed off a reasonable amount of personal stuff, or etc.
        I’ve never just gone to the office to spend a couple hours on a PC, but I’ve definitely swung by the office a couple times on weekends whatever to print something off and never thought twice about it.

        1. Dinwar*

          Same here. Plus, a few of us have kids around the same age and do the whole Girl Scout Cookie/BSA popcorn/school fundraiser thing. It’s pretty common for us to pop into the office for that reason, even on days we were supposed to be off, and do some work to justify it to ourselves. Or use it as an excuse to be away from the spouse/kids for a bit. (I saw a woman in an abusive relationship doing that, for example….)

          I also wonder what the business and pay structures are like. Where I work, if I’m on vacation but a project has an issue, no one would think anything of me going to the office (if I’m nearby) for a few hours to deal with it, then going back to whatever I was doing. It’d be a bit strange in the post-Covid world (going into the office is strange these days!), but more of a “Huh, Dinwar’s in, that’s odd” reaction, not a “Dinwar must be committing fraud” reaction. And some people I work with absolutely do come in to use the internet–they live in rural areas and it doesn’t take much to knock out their internet access. Or it’s quiet in the office (saw a guy doing that yesterday, he came in to do a few hours of work away from his young kids). I’ve also had situations where I was off as far as one internal client was concerned, but I had work for another internal client, and weekends were the only time to do it (even got a bonus for doing it once).

          So all in all, I’d put it at an orange flag. By itself it’s odd, and definitely sounds outside the cultural norms of this office, but not in and of itself a problem (depending on the nature of the work). But it’s worth asking the guy about.

        2. Smithy*

          I’m on this side.

          I completely get that there are industries such as banking or the government where this is a big no-no, but in a lot of industries, having more lax policies around a work computer is one of the bigger “perks” of working somewhere. If that’s the computer where an employee checks their personal email during lunch, prints plane tickets for personal travel, does some occasionally online shopping – it can afford them the ability to replace their personal computer less often and not invest in items like a printer. Or when people are traveling for work, being able to travel with just one computer to do things like watch Netflix at night in the hotel.

          Again, if this is against your industry – then it’s important to focus on that reality. You work for an industry that prohibits this kind of personal usage of work computers due to XYZ reasons. But this is not cross sector, and the quickest explanation is that this person doesn’t have a personal computer (or a good one) and is coming in to do things like their taxes, make arrangements for a family vacation, etc.

          1. HG*

            This was my thought. They don’t have a computer at home and/or aren’t paying $50-100 a month for an internet connection.

          2. Union Nerd*

            Using the internet at work is supported in many parts of the government. We’re told that it shouldn’t impact on our work or anyone else’s (no streaming large files), and nothing illegal, but that’s it. I suspect banking and other financial places are the ones who care.

          3. Your Mate in Oz*

            In my job they give us laptops if we’re in the on call roster, and for various reasons they’re not cheap laptops. So I have the choice of buying a personal laptop or using my work one… I haven’t bought a laptop for 10 years.

            I think a lot of IT companies at least have pretty generous personal use policies (in my office YouTube is the biggest single site for bandwidth use), plus there are toys at work that I’m not willing to buy for home. Projectors, seeing whether four or more monitors are useful (I use three for day to day work), that sort of thing.

            The flip side is that we are expected to do whatever it takes to keep the public-facing systems running 24/7, and it’s not just the owners you’ll see in the office on weekends. It’s an incentive to build solid systems, that means you’re not called out after hours.

    2. ComputerJanitor*

      I agree it’s a fraud red flag. From an IT perspective I’d also be concerned if the employee didn’t have computing resources outside of work. People using using work compters for personal stuff like banking, taxes, photo editing, novel writing, etc. is a liability for the company. I’ve seen too many computer illiterate employees be surprised when we don’t gift them their laptop and work email account on their last day.

      1. Higher Ed*

        No need to use the work computers for personal business; that’s what the library is for. Our institution also allows community members access to the library and computer labs, so there’s another option.

        1. anonymouse*

          My first thought too was “that’s what the library is for.”
          OP is within the bounds of professionalism and good citizenship to say, “please don’t use your work computer on your day off for non-business needs.”
          If my coworker came in on a day off to surf, pay bills, do whatever, I’d be uncomfortable. Like, you aren’t working so I don’t want to talk to you about work, but you are sitting there, like, why are you here? It’s weird.

          1. Dogmama*

            As a corollary, if the vacationing employee is on the work computer for long stretches, I’d be concerned about how many hours they spend on personal matters during the workday as well.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              Very much. If everything he needs is on his work computer, his work computer is too much him and not enough work, types Not Tom from a work computer. That’s facetious, but the question is not.
              He may be far too blended in his day and work can be pushed because it feels like he can get to it any time.

        2. TeaCoziesRUs*

          That’s my first thought, too. My dude, (hopefully?) you have a local library… go use that!

      2. LRL*

        Several times over my career a person’s email has been forwarded to me after they leave the company. I am amazed at the kinds of personal emails I have received this way- receipts, shipping notices, renewal notices and invoices, personal social media updates, communications from healthcare providers…

      3. Gem-Like Flame*

        Those retiring employees thought that they’d get their workplace computer as a goodbye gift?! What on earth were they thinking? That computers are as cheap as giveaway pens or T-shirts so of course they’d get to cart theirs home??

        1. Artemesia*

          I was willing to buy my laptop which was old and not valuable. The policy was ‘no’ — they trashed it. My son in laws company on the other hand sells outdated laptops to employees for their personal use. they wipe the computer and sell it for the very nominal amount it is worth — i.e. maybe $100. My husband who uses a desktop for most of his computer usage, got his laptop that way from our son in law.

          1. Your Mate in Oz*

            We have an e-waste collection point and stuff gets cleaned before it goes there. So staff are welcome to reuse stuff that would otherwise be recycled. People do take stuff, monitors in particular tend to only sit there for a week at most if they work.

            It’s an easy perk for the company to offer and costs them nothing.

      4. Hoya Lawya*

        People using using work compters for personal stuff like banking, taxes, photo editing, novel writing, etc. is a liability for the company.

        I’m an attorney by training. I struggle to see how an employee using a work computer to check his bank account, edit a photo, or do some personal writing constitutes a material “liability for the company.” (Yes, you can come up with some fantastical circumstances where it might be — if the photo being edited is p0rn, for instance, or if you’re working in national security — but I’m speaking in terms of *realistic* liability for ordinary use in most businesses.)

    3. Llama Llama*

      So I work at home so it’s not noticable but legitimately there are a few things I do that are 1000% easier to do on my work computer rather that at home. Now it’s only occasionally and during my working hours. Hover I have logged in in days off to do something. I don’t think I would ever drive into my work to get something done though.

      Could I figure out why I can’t log into my kids lunch account to load money in phone? Sure. But it’s easy to just do it from a computer.

      1. Adultier Adult*

        Same- paying bills during lunchtime- adding lunch money to kids accounts- totally allowed and expected

    4. Statler von Waldorf*

      I had a very similar thought when I read this letter. This is a major red flag, and if the employee in question has access to financial records or systems, it should be shut down and shut down hard.

      This doesn’t even open up the can of worms that might exist if they are accessing something on the internet at work specifically because they do not want linked to their own ISP. Piracy is the best case scenario there, and CSAM is the worst.

      1. Lalonde*

        Am I understanding your comment correctly in that you think there is a chance that someone is coming into their workplace on their day off to look at child porn?! Or pirating materials??

        What a strange conclusion to jump to. It’s far more likely they don’t have wi-fi or internet at home (either they can’t afford it or don’t want to pay) and they choose to use their work computer.

        1. WellRed*

          I agree! If someone was gonna commit fraud or whatever, why not do it on company time while no one is paying attention? Why CALL ATTENTION to yourself?

        2. Statler von Waldorf*

          It may be a strange conclusion to worry about CSAM, but it’s one I reached because at one point in my life I had to testify in court because someone at a former workplace did exactly that.

          Do I think the odds are high that this is the case? No. Do I think the consequences would be terrible for the company if it was the case? Absolutely.

      2. amoeba*

        Eh. My employee sometimes takes her laptop home for the weekend because her home laptop doesn’t have MS Office and when she needs to write something formal, like, every few months, she does it on the work laptop. Now, it’s a laptop, so she can do it from home, but there’s all kinds of scenarios that are waaaaay more benign than your “best case”.

    5. Observer*

      I am channeling my bank-employee-in-another-life-self but I see coming in on a day off “to use the computer” as a huge red flag

      I think the OP would have known if they are in something like Finance, where this would be a major red flag. And they make it clear that what they are worried about it their employee’s stress level and ability to detach from work.

      Also, this is an older letter. Today it’s extremely clear. But it was not so long ago when it was surprisingly common for people to not have internet access at home.

      1. Yeah...*

        Yes, I was trying to figure out how to say

        “But it was not so long ago when it was surprisingly common for people to not have internet access at home.”

        This commentariat can be very “online” at times.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          This was me at my first job. I didn’t come in on my days off or anything, but I stayed late to surf the web or play games. It was a long time ago and things were different then, but I wouldn’t jump to nefarious reasons without more information than OP provided.

      2. flare*

        My employer literally told us all in the 90s to get a second (institutional) email account for personal stuff, back when it was dial up and pay by the minute and aol disks in the mail. So like, also had a account. I did that and used that account for all sorts of things for a long time. Ultimately they merged those accounts and started acting like a modern entity and stopped offering the secondary account, but my Amazon account, for instance still uses my institutional email, mostly because the actual server names were so fun I don’t want to let go. Obviously if I left employment (or if they ever actually retire being able to use that old server name) I’d move any such accounts to the personal account that’s been the norm for 20 years.

    6. Ellie Chumsfanleigh*

      The letter on Inc. was edited down. The original question had this in it: “(We are in a country where it is not common for people to have internet in their homes, and being a large organization, our connection at the office is normally strong.)”

      I wonder if the libraries there aren’t set up like libraries in the U.S. and so the only way this employee could get on the internet was from the office.

      1. Filosofickle*

        That feels pretty important to leave out of the story! I didn’t think it was shady to begin with, but that context changes a lot.

    7. Coverage Associate*

      In law firms, people issued laptops can use them for legal personal purposes, subject to firewalls for security and sometimes for productivity. At one of my old firms, someone coming in during work hours to browse the internet wouldn’t have had much fun, because all sorts of legit websites were blocked during work, then those restrictions relaxed at 6pm when presumably only salaried employees were still at the office.

      A lot of people live closer to work than a public library, and a lot of public libraries have waits to use public computers. Also, library internet is often slower than workplace internet.

      It would be weird for someone to come to the law office on a day off to use the resources there, but I wouldn’t think “data security risk.”

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I had the same thought about library use. Even in 2023 my local library only has 2 computers and both are right next to the front doors in those small desk cubbies. Every single person who enters the library walks behind you. Neither have Microsoft on them – just online access, which is spotty because we can’t get fiber were I live. The closest “big” library with reliable service is 30 minutes away or so but we do have a few big employers closer to us. Even now when service in our area is spotty I envision myself going into work before going to our library.

        I realize we try not to do a “but this is my circumstance so it must be everyone’s” but I do think a lot of rural areas still struggle with access issues (to internet, to libraries, to public services) and things like this are a normal way of life, not a red flag.

  4. ZSD*

    Directly refusing to assist a colleague is obviously an enormous red flag (with blinding lights sewn in), but the idea that he could get promoted in less than a year could stem from getting bad career advice. When I entered the working world, I got bad advice from the book _So What are You Going to Do with That?_, which included an anecdote about talented people getting promoted in as little as three weeks. I decided to set more conservative expectations and thought I might get promoted after six weeks.
    I did not.

    1. Heffalump*

      Gumption takes many forms. Did you do yourself serious damage, or were you just told that you were out of line?

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      I *did* get promoted in three weeks as a 22-year-old, but that was very much based on the needs of the business (they had an IT crisis and I was the only person on staff who could spell “IT”) and also it wasn’t really a promotion (it fell under “other duties as assigned”, so they got a part-time sysadmin for free while also getting the semi-skilled labor I was actually paid for, but hey it was experience and also it was 2009 so I had limited ability to vote with my feet.)

      I suspect this is usually how it goes. You’re a junior llama groomer, you’ve been there three weeks when a senior groomer gets llamapox, you’ve taken over their clients and you’re doing a good job…but that doesn’t mean you’ve been promoted. It’s good experience for your resume, and at some point they’ll have to promote you or you’ll find someone else who is willing to hire you at the level you’re operating at, but that day is well into the future.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        Or you get hired as a llama groomer but one day a customer asks whether anyone can wash their axlotyl and suddenly you’re promoted to ‘and axlotyl washer” because you know how to do that.

        I had quite a few jobs like that when I was younger, including a stint that went from putting stickers on magazines to driving a forklift (moving pallets of magazines…). The trick is to make sure you get the higher pay rather than the lower one when you’re doing multiple jobs.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      There are some circumstances where you hire someone into a job they’re too good for, just so you can get them on board for when a projected role opens. This is when there’s an unusual candidate you don’t want to lose track of.

      I think perhaps Boy Wonder thought LW considered him too good to pass up. But that’s the OPPOSITE of what’s actually happening according to this letter.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think it is this. He’s convinced himself that there were two positions open, but the company screwed up and interviewed him too late. I really get, “when am I moving into my REAL position?” vibes.

  5. In the Deep Freeze*

    I know this is an old situation, but anyone facing this now should just be frank and tell this employee exactly what soft skills need developing, and offer to find training for them. Soft skills are like any other and can be taught and learned.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      If the person hadn’t flat out refused to help the other person, and just needed a little softening around the edges maybe. But flat out saying — not helping someone because they are senior is not the sign of someone who will listen to any advice. Also if it were someone there a while who was wondering why they weren’t being promoted, also worth a little effort. New person being this much of a jerk right off the bat – life is too short to waste time on someone like this. Let them learn from the School of Hard Knocks.

    2. Olive*

      Yes, I think the worst thing the manager could do is to quietly be “a little miffed” and let it affect their opinion of the employee but not say anything to him.

      I agree that the best thing is to be direct and factual. This is what the job requires, this is where you’re lacking, this is what we expect from you, these are the ways we can support your growth. And if that doesn’t happen, this job isn’t going to work out.

    3. Looper*

      If I was this guy’s coworker, I would be LIVID if my manager spent all their time hand holding and training him to move up when they were being a poor employee and coworker since day one. The LW would be better served finding staff with better attitudes and work ethics and THEN work on soft skill training.

      1. Artemesia*

        sounds like the kind of special treatment only entitled white boys get. I have seen mediocre men advance quickly over competent women.

    4. Observer*

      anyone facing this now should just be frank and tell this employee exactly what soft skills need developing, and offer to find training for them

      Yes to the first part, hard no on the second. Be clear with the employee – that’s always a good idea. But at this point the last thing you want to do is offer further investment because you really should be looking at whether you should even be keeping him. Because the *really* big problem is his attitude. And you cannot train people for that.

      1. Artemesia*

        the soft skills advice should come as part of firing him. This is not someone worth investing time in.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Some soft skills can be trained, and maybe those are the ones that were lacking during the interview process — like maybe he’s an awkward speaker, you can send him to training to improve his presentation skills.

      But with what happened in the letter, we’re out of the realm of trainable “skills.” You can’t really train someone to be willing to help people, or to stop acting like they’re too good for the job.

    6. SofiaDeo*

      This may be true for some people, but not others. I’ve heard more the opposite, along the lines of “I can teach tasks, I can’t teach character.”

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, you can’t really train people out of being a jackass. Refusing to help a coworker because you are junior and don’t want to be is a career limiting move.

        I’ve been hired as a junior when I should have been a mid or senior. It happens to people who read as women in tech all the time. The “soft skill” I lacked was a certain appendage that is usually soft. I never refused to step up and pitch in, even when it was men being clueless.

        If he keeps up with the entitled attitude, get rid of him, he’s not going to grow in the role.

  6. Practical Reasons*

    Ugh. Helping coworkers is part of the considerations for promotion, no? It’s not strictly whether you fulfill your job duties and call it a day, nor how long you’ve been there. You need to go above and beyond, but he’s stopping at the middle. I’d tell him that there’s a lot that goes into a promotion, including proving you can do the duties of the new job.

    1. Observer*

      You need to go above and beyond, but he’s stopping at the middle

      It’s worse than that. In many jobs you can get promoted without going above and beyond, but in any functional organization you DO need to do the *whole* job and be reasonable and reasonably helpful. He’s failing on all three counts. I’m not sure that he’s even reaching “the middle.”

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I had a colleague at an old job who refused to “help” her direct report get promoted until she got promoted. But helping her direct report move up when she was ready (which she more than was) would be part of her consideration for promotion! But she didn’t want to hear that, and never got promoted. She left over it and her direct report was immediately promoted off cycle, because the new manager realized right away what happened. All this to say, being a good coworker is often a big part of being considered for promotion! This guy is refusing to do something that can only benefit him! It’s wild to me.

  7. Former Retail Manager*

    I haven’t revisited the original post, but reading this is like deja vu! I am a Federal employee with an agency that has been understaffed for a looooonnnngggg time. We have been hiring for the last several years and continue to do so. I have been tasked with training said new hires all this time. I cannot tell you how many new hires I’ve encountered that are just like this guy, minus the helping a co-worker because my position doesn’t require collaboration. People are hired in at certain grade level, reflective of their education and skills and don’t understand why they cannot be promoted in 6 months and can’t understand why we aren’t paying them 6 figures. There is a very steep learning curve for the position and the training period is 2 YEARS! The entitlement seems to get a bit stronger with each hiring group, although it’s obviously not every candidate. But when the entitlement makes an appearance, it really shows out!

    1. Breaking Panda News*

      Industry would be an important detail in this situation. Working in media for many years it was common for people to sometimes be in off the clock to use specialized software to keep their resume reels fresh or work on certain skills with specialized programs that aren’t part of their job, but they want to learn like Photoshop. It’s not as common recently with the rise of free apps and better compensation industry-wide.

      1. Wintermute*


        This could be anything from a giant red flag for fraud and reason to suspend them administratively with pay while their accounts and positions are tallied up and a full audit run or it could be something everyone does commonly.

        we cannot know without context.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      How much of it is entitlement and how much of it is changing expectations due to the rapidly rising cost of living, which salaries aren’t keeping up with? Maybe the way they express their frustration is unprofessional and unproductive, but I feel the underlying sentiment deep in my bones.

      1. Overit*

        I feel it too, but mu 30 year old daughter sees the attitude all around her in people up to the age of about 40. Expectations of rapid advancement based solely on (short) time served and disgruntlement and retaliation are more common than not. She has had more than 1 staffer quit bec they did not get a promotion in 6 months or less –even though the route to advancement (or lack thereof) is spelled out clearly during recruitment, onboarding and orientation. She has found a lot of “But I am SPECIAL! But I want it!” attitudes.

        1. Wintermute*

          It sounds like the employers aren’t keeping up then.

          If good workers of the skills you want expect promotions every six months, you give them or you accept worse workers. If this really is all around her then it sounds like their way will win out eventually.

          1. Dinwar*

            The huge assumption you’re making is that the workers petulantly demanding promotions after 6 months are in fact good workers. This is contrary to all my experience. Such people tend to have a grossly over-inflated view of their own capabilities, and are typically well below average. To put it bluntly, I’ve rarely missed an employee like that after they’ve left.

            If the company really does cave in and start promoting workers who are incapable of doing entry-level work, they’ll get what they deserve–either being bought out or filing for bankruptcy. Someone who is incapable of doing an entry-level job never is good as a manager (maybe an exception can be found, but they’re so rare that they can be treated as non-existent for planning purposes, just like you don’t plan for asteroids striking your building).

            1. Umami*

              Or … a raise? It’s not always (and probably rarely) feasible to ‘promote’ every good worker after 6 months. But having funds available for raises makes sense to keep someone who really deserves it.

          2. Angstrom*

            What if they expect promotions without having earned them?
            If the path to promotion is clearly laid out and is applied fairly, giving in to whiners will just create resentemnt among the good workers.

            1. Wintermute*

              If your best employees say they will work someplace else or to give them unearned promotions you have a choice as a business: you give them promotions or you find new employees.

              Labor literally does not care about what anyone deserves, only what they have the bargaining power to get. Employers often find themselves getting het up about “earning it” and “not having paid their dues” but at the end of the day employers (other than a vanishingly few exceptions like Costco) won’t increase wages just because it’s the right thing to do, they will only do so when forced by market conditions.

              So whether these promotions are deserved is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is if they can fill the positions with good people that stick around– your post said it was people “all around her” which seems to imply if they simply get rid of them all (or cause them to leave) they won’t simply be able to replace them with people who don’t want promotions or they feel act more acceptably.

              If they can fill the positions with decent workers, great, no issue. If they can’t then they can choose to stick to their guns and not give out “unearned” promotions no matter how much it costs them, they can accept lower quality employees to get ones who don’t want to be promoted so quickly, or they can give the promotions to retain the people they want to retain.

              1. Dinwar*

                “If your best employees…”

                Where did Overit say these were their best employees? Since your entire argument is based on that, it would be reasonable to substantiate that this is who we are discussing. Otherwise, your comments are at best irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

                If we’re even discussing merely adequate employees the demand for rapid promotion would be entirely unreasonable.

                1. Wintermute*

                  that is fair but it is not necessary for my argument.

                  If they’re better than you’d otherwise get they’re your best employees, if they’re not then you don’t have a problem, unless the turnover gets to be so high that it’s a problem for your business but then you’re back to the same thing.

                  My point is just that it doesn’t matter what people deserve, only what they want and if you can afford not to give it to them. If your refusal results in getting worse employees or suffering high turnover it doesn’t matter who deserves what you can die on the hill or you can do what they want.

        2. Pescadero*

          Are they getting it somewhere else?

          Because if they are – their expectations are reasonable, and your daughters company is wrong.

          1. Wintermute*

            exactly, “deserved” is a concept that does not exist in economics. If employees said they would only work for you if you put a giant statue of an ice cream cone in the lobby then you have a choice: you can get employees without that demand or you can start shopping for fiberglass waffle cones.

            If you can find enough good employees who don’t have demands you don’t like then no problem, but if it becomes a problem for your business you can decide to stand on principle and suffer for it or you can go along with it. There are no other options.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              Deserved doesn’t exist in economics but it does in young graduates a lot of the time. Including me when I was one. My MBA program told me not to accept less than $50K in 2005. If I had stuck with that figure in my market I’d have been unemployed for who knows how long – I couldn’t find that number with my 2-3 years of real world experience anywhere but sure thought I deserved it!

              I feel like you are arguing throughout the comments here that every worker who threatens to leave over pay or promotion is the defacto Best Worker Ever. I do think employers largely underpay, but I don’t think that is what is happening in this letter. The guy was hired for a junior level job. He accepted the position and the pay that goes with it. He wants a promotion immediately and is not willing to help coworkers until he does. This is not an employee who has realized his worth after some time on the job.

    3. Lobstermn*

      Yeah that sounds like the salary is so low and/or the hiring process is so slow that the good candidates are weeded out.

  8. Barefoot Librarian*

    I feel like with the new employee in #1, I would sit him down, restate clearly but kindly what to expect from this role including expectations on promotions and advancement, and then ask him if this job is still in line with what he’s looking for because both parties can back out at this point if not – no harm, no foul. I’d rather give him an out that let him get his own expectations up and have a messy PIP and firing/quitting later.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t be kind about it (I wouldn’t be harsh, either). I’d just be direct. I’d also let him know that his unwillingness to help other colleagues is part of the problem – he needs to develop his teamwork and collaboration skills before he can even be considered for promotion, in addition to doing a very good job in the role he has today.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        Oh I agree. Direct is exactly what I meant by clearly. Ambiguity isn’t going to do either of them any favors.

    2. DyneinWalking*

      New employees are usually quite easy to get rid of, even in countries with work contracts. And if you’ve only recently hired someone, there’s a good chance that at least a few people of the original pool of applicants are still available.

      So actually this is more a choice between a clean firing or a getting involved in a potentially very messy debate with an entitled employee… with a high chance (given his attitude) that he will still need to be fired later on – when he’s not on probation anymore and much more difficult to get rid of.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        I totally agree. I see a messy firing coming down the line (especially considering he’s unwilling to help another colleague out the gate). Better to end the employment now.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. this is not a guy who needs a little help, this is a glassbowl. Fire him and hire someone who isn’t.

  9. Damian Pepperstepper*

    You hired an overqualified person into a lower level role and are surprised that they are advocating for themselves to get into a role more commensurate with their experience? It’s just as much on them for taking the job as it is on you for offering it to them, but I don’t think this is the kind of thing that will go away.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, it seems like the difference between the two employees was soft skills, and the junior employee was properly hired at a lower level because of the lack of soft skills. He’s only overqualified in his own mind.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      You don’t start advocating to get yourself into a role more commensurate with your experience after only a week on the job! That’s ridiculous behaviour no matter how qualified he thinks he is.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      It sounds like they weren’t qualified for the higher position. They didn’t have to take the lower position. Unless someone promised them they would be promoted quickly — which does not appear to be the case — employee knew the score. Business hired for their needs. Employee accepted. That’s a business transaction, with only one side now holding up their end of the deal.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        You are asserting facts that aren’t in the letter though. You don’t know why the employee accepted the position or that they didn’t have to. Most people do have to work to live and this person may have needed this job, any job, to survive. It is indeed a business transaction, and so the employee’s desire to move up to the level they believe they should be at as quickly as possible makes sense from their perspective. It also isn’t clear from the letter how in-depth the pre-hiring conversations went into the expectations for the lower position or how long it would take to be promoted, so it’s possible that both sides failed to do their due diligence there. But I don’t understand why he would just necessarily know that promotions take x amount of time at this company without asking. I have never put in for a promotion at any workplace and would have to read a bunch of relevant posts on this blog to have any sense of how quickly people tend to get promoted in different industries.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Most people don’t expect a promotion quickly. Even if they don’t take X amount of time, you aren’t usually getting promoted within your first month or so. Especially if you refuse to help a senior person.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          If you don’t do the job you’re hired for, no matter your qualifications, you will not and should not be considered for any kind of promotion. Did you take this low level job because you need the money? Then you can start to discuss after six months (when you’ve settled in and started showing you can do the job) what moving up looks like. Not 2 weeks in while refusing to work with others.

    3. HonorBox*

      Not going to go away. Yes.
      Overqualified? No.

      It sounds like they weren’t qualified for the middle role for reasons like soft skills (evidence front and center in the letter). But whether under, over or properly-qualified, there is an expectation most places that you don’t just say no when someone asks for assistance.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah. There is nothing wrong with asking about advancement paths at an appropriate time, but that usually comes 6 months to a year in rather than at the very beginning.

        The bigger problem is “I won’t help the person I’m jealous of because they got the higher-level position I see as mine” comes across as childish and petty. Whether or not that’s the intent, it’s the message the employee is sending.

        He could have had a chance to prove himself, to develop the skills he was lacking, and THEN to move up.

        Instead, he’s choosing to fight a losing battle.

        1. I Have RBF*


          Sure, he can feel that the other person got a higher position unfairly. But that’s a him thing. He does not have any excuse to take that out on the other employee by refusing to help or collaborate with them. That takes it out of the realm of private disgruntlement into insubordination and pettiness.

          I get it. I’ve been low-slotted often in my career because I lack one “soft” skill – a male body. But no matter how much I seethe over lesser qualified men getting promoted over me, I still can’t give in to being petty toward them in my job, unless I want to be “promoted” right out the door. It’s not actually their fault – it’s the sexism inherent in the industry.

    4. Lizzianna*

      I’m not sure they’re overqualified. LW says that they didn’t have the soft skills needed for the higher level position. Their behavior in the first few weeks of a new job confirms that decision, in my opinion.

    5. Dinwar*

      “You hired an overqualified person into a lower level role and are surprised that they are advocating for themselves to get into a role more commensurate with their experience?”

      The gulf between “advocating for one’s self” and “refusing to help coworkers” is so wide that the universe hasn’t existed long enough for the light from one side to reach the other yet. Even if you don’t consider helping coworkers to be the right thing to do in general, networking is an absolute requirement for any sort of promotion. When folks look to promote in my company, they first talk to those who work with the person. And if I heard “Joe does okay work, nothing spectacular, but he’s got a standoffish attitude and is unwilling to help out his coworkers” I’d immediately stop considering Joe for a promotion and start considering him for a PIP.

      The idea that work is beneath you (which is what “overqualified person” and “lower level role” mean) is one that I find abhorrent as well. I deal with it all the time with junior staff on my job. They come in thinking that in six months they’ll be a senior project manager. The reality is it takes about ten years in the field to really understand the realities of fieldwork, plus a few years being mentored by a PM to understand how to translate that to a reasonable budget. And absolutely everything we do is based on what those “lower level roles” do. They are a vital and indispensable part of the process, and honestly compensated accordingly (their hourly rate is lower than mine, but with overtime and travel they actually make more).

      There are a handful of exceptions, all fitting into one category: If you bring someone with years of experience in a higher-level role, to do that higher-level role for you, yeah, they’ve got a right to say “I wasn’t brought on to groom llamas, I was brought on to manage the llama medical division, and if you make me groom llamas I’m out.” But if I hire you as a llama groomer and ask you to help groom Sussan’s llamas, telling me that you’re not going to help and that llama grooming is beneath you is not acceptable.

      1. Keymaster the absent*

        The gulf between “advocating for one’s self” and “refusing to help coworkers” is so wide that the universe hasn’t existed long enough for the light from one side to reach the other yet.

        That is the most incredible way of putting it!

    6. CMD*

      Perhaps I am misinterpreting the OP but if he didn’t interview well enough to get the higher position (perhaps due to the lack of soft skills needed), isn’t that indication enough he is under qualified for it?

      “I had them doing initial training together, as the technical skills are the same, but the higher level candidate has soft skills that this disgruntled employee lacks.”

    7. Keymaster*

      There’s ‘reading between the lines’ and then there’s ‘holding up a blank sheet of paper and ranting about the spelling mistakes’.

      Even if he were overqualified on paper skills (and there’s no indication of that) he showed a distinct lack of the softer skills that meant he wasn’t suitable for anything higher. You can’t expect promotions just for thinking you’re smarter than anyone else.

      This is a common flaw in a lot of entry level IT positions. Some have this idea that they’ll go straight into 3rd line technical roles within a month and are deeply disappointed when they find out that they can’t.

      Bottom line is, if you’ve accepted a job offer you have to do the job – not whine about it. He could have chosen to be constructive and asked what skills he needed to improve to move up and gone away and learnt them.

  10. Scarlet Ribbons in Her Hair*

    #1 – I suspect the new employee is hearing “You’re not good enough for the mid-level position, so you’ll get the entry-level position. The person we’re hiring for the mid-level position isn’t good enough for it either, so you’ll have to help him.” And he’s annoyed.

    #4 – During my eighth week at a former job, a supervisor told me that I was better at two crucial parts of my job than Betty, who had a similar job and who had been there for a few years. He told me this right in front of Betty, who burst into tears and shouted “I’m going home!” and ran out the door. The next day, I was told that I was being let go, as Betty said that she would quit if I wasn’t fired. I was also told that according to the employee handbook, anyone let go before the three month probation period had ended was ineligible for rehire by any of that company’s branch offices, and if any future prospective employers should call for a reference about me, they would be told that I was ineligible for rehire. No wonder I didn’t put that job on my resume.

    1. Sleepiest Girl Out Here*

      I don’t really think that the mid-level person needing help with something is an indication that they aren’t good enough at their role. OP made an indication that the soft skills were what were needed for the mid-level role, presumably that’s not what the low-level job is helping them with.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I think you’re misunderstanding the comment. That person is not saying that’s the reality, they’re saying that’s what the new junior employee might be mistakenly taking away from the request.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It is a reasonably common phenomenon that people will be passed over for a senior role and still have to help the lucky candidate settle in (or, worse, train them). There’s almost always something else going on but that specific situation is bound to disgruntle a person with less than saintlike patience.

    2. Wintermute*

      1– That’s where I come down. The new hire here could be incredibly reasonable and going about it poorly or they could be wildly unreasonable and it really depends on how what was told to them and the degree of help needed.

      If I’m passed over for a role doing FooSoft 2.0 admin and they hire me as a FooSoft operator, then ask me to help their actual admin do the admin work while he is paid 120k a year and I am paid 50k a year, then I was cheated. But if they say ‘look you don’t have the personality for client contact’ (or that’s what they were thinking about ‘soft skills’) and I use that to refuse to show the new hire how our intranet site works or where the copy paper is stored I’m being a raging jerk.

      This employee could be very reasonable but expressing it badly or could be laughably out in left field.

    3. Pescadero*


      1) This guy deserves to get fired.

      2) You do not hire someone in a junior role because they aren’t qualified for the senior role – then ask them to train the person in the job they didn’t get. That is just BAD management.

      Expecting a junior role to assist a senior role? Fine.
      Expecting a junior you told wasn’t wualified for the role to TRAIN the senior? Not ok at all.

      1. La Triviata*

        Years ago, I dealt with a new college graduate. She had the idea – seemingly from her college – that with a B.A., she was qualified for higher-level employment. She was hired as a clerical assistant (what we oldies would have called a secretary) and, within a few weeks of being hired, was offended at being told to file some publications by date. She was, in her eyes, qualified for something better.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Expecting a junior you told wasn’t qualified for the role to TRAIN the senior? Not ok at all.

        I get this All. The. Time. Usually the person I need to train is a manager, brought in from outside, with rusty tech skills. They are usually male, I am not.

        I get told I’m not qualified to be a manager because I haven’t been a manager for pay. But I can train managers in the tech part of my job.

        Several years ago I remarked to a friend that if I had a penis I’d be making at least $50K more than I am.

      3. edda ed*

        Good gravy, it’s a rehash of the same circling comments as the original post.

        No, the junior employee is not being asked to train the senior employee, they are being asked to help the senior employee. There was more detail in the comments of the original post (the LW was nicely active) and the facts of the situation are that the junior employee is NOT training the senior employee. They just both happen to be doing the same training, which, since they’re both shiny new to the company, is no surprise. Onboarding etc. etc.

  11. Happy meal with extra happy*

    The letter regarding student employees is extra tricky in some situations because in some locales/universities, university employees are mandatory reporters. The intent may or may not make sense, but it ultimately means that if an adult is talking to someone they see as a mentor regarding an abuse situation, that mentor would legally be required to report it.

    1. Wintermute*

      Mandatory reporting, in every state I can find, only applies to children (and there are some professions that get special requirements for vulnerable adults). there is no law in any US state that requires anyone to generally report suspected violence (since the law does not consider it abuse if you can get up and walk away, that’s why the law calls it ‘domestic violence’ not abuse) against all adults as a general rule.

      1. Higher Ed worker*

        Happy meal with extra happy is right – it’s not a state law, but it is university policy that if a student tells me something about abuse or another violation of university policy, I’m required to report it.

        1. Wintermute*

          that is not mandatory reporting though.

          Basically your case is “our policy is if you see these things you must tell a supervisor or you may be fired”.

          Mandatory reporting is “if you do not tell the police you may go to prison”.

          1. Higher Ed worker*

            We’re called mandatory reporters though. Because we’re mandated to report. We’re just not mandated to report to the state.

          2. Pescadero*

            The government is not the only entity that can make something mandatory.

            If you r job mandates you report something or get fired – it IS mandatory.

            1. Wintermute*

              that’s true but calling something that can get you fired and something that could see you spend a chunk of your life in a prison the same name seems ill-advised and confusing at best.

      2. rural academic*

        Some university students are still minors, and the supervisor may not know the exact ages of the student employees.

      3. kendall^2*

        Some universities, however, do tell employees that they are expected to report, even if the state does not.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          Yeah, my former university called us “mandatory reporters” even if we weren’t legally, so I could see how there is confusion.

          1. Wintermute*

            yeah, I am learning that now. It seems very confusing and like a very bad idea.

            Typical US system though, the important part that matters to people’s everyday life is “will this risk putting you in prison and giving you a felony record?” and calling one that means “yes” and one that means “no” the same name seems like a very bad idea.

      4. A Cat named Brian*

        In a large university for over 12 years now, we’ve always had the expectations to mentor students. And that includes all kinds of listening and supporting, setting boundaries and mandatory reporting… just goes with the territory. I mean, students are the reason we all have our jobs….

      5. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I did some googling, and it looks the mandatory reporting my friend told me about is required under Title IX for anything sexual misconduct related. The phrase “mandatory reporting” is used for these policies, though I’m not sure if criminal penalties are a consequent, so no need for the nitpicking.

      6. Yorick*

        This is not true, there are universities where you have to report to the university any crime that a student tells you about

      7. mzanonnow*

        As a faculty member at a State University I am REQUIRED to report any report of sexual or other violence if a student reveals it to me. I don’t know about staff.

      8. StartedCollegeAt16*

        I was a minor my first three years of college. You don’t know the ages of all of your students.

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I am happy to say that Inc. told me they’ve started putting my articles for them in front of their paywall so they will always be free and easy to read.

    1. Rondeaux*

      That’s great but I’m still keeping my subscription – I find there are many useful articles for the business world

    2. Michelle Smith*

      I was wondering if something had changed because I’m no longer prompted to sign in when I click on the links. Very exciting news!

    3. DollarStoreParty*

      LOL I subscribed a while back so I could read your articles. I’ll continue to do so as it’s a good site and I want to support pubs who support you.

    4. Once too Often*

      Congratulations! So glad that they are seeing your contributions as so valuable & a real draw for customers.

  13. AlwaysManaging*

    The person who is coming into the office on their approved time off is raising a few flags for me. One, they’re not being paid to be there, so they shouldn’t be there (all kinds of messiness can ensue when we blur this boundary).
    Two, if they are coming in to do something personal (like use the company computer to take care of their own business), that should definitely not be allowed.
    Three, if they are in when they are expected to be out and there is some sort of evacuation or emergency, they may not be accounted for per the regular evacuation procedures. So, that’s a danger to them and a liability for the company.
    I would definitely say no if an employee asked to come in on their vacation day for any length of time outside of maybe picking something up that they forgot where they’re in and out fairly quickly.

    1. Phryne*

      At some places these are very good concerns. At others not so much. At my workplace, none of these are valid. One, we are all employed under contract and on monthly salaries (kind of like exempt I guess, although not exactly the same) so when we take our vacation is of no concern to our income.
      Two, my employer could not care less about us doing private stuff on our work laptops. We don’t have admin rights so we can not install random apps anyway, and as it is a college, there is literally tens of thousands of students doing private stuff on the network, a few employees makes no difference.
      Likewise for evacuations. It is a semi public building, hundreds of people walk in and out every day so there is no point in doing headcounts. Evac procedure calls for designated people checking designated sections of the building for stragglers.
      So the only concern in my workplace in a situation like this would be people not turning work off enough. It is a burnout prone profession anyway, and teachers notoriously won’t stop working in weekends etc, so managers should be concerned about people not taking their vacation time for work stress reasons.

    2. Wintermute*

      This was really normal at some places I worked… and would get you suspended while they audited your accounts and trading positions at others.

      It really, really depends on such a host of factors including whether they are a fraud risk, if they have tools people won’t have at home, the culture of the place.

      Back when I was a younger person Autocad and Adobe Creative Suite were big ones– learning to use the program better was the major way to advance your career but no one was going to pay thousands of dollars or have a computer worth tens of thousands of dollars that could handle professional-grade 3D modelling at home.

      Slightly less noble was the fact that before home broadband was truly capable a lot of people would come in to use the T1s to download things and take them home on disks or thumb drives. Obviously that’s not really applicable anymore but coming in on a day off to hang out with your friends at work is very normal in some IT circles, because they would be doing the same at home as at work anyway.

      On the other hand someone working with funds in a bank who has personal authority to move funds around (a fund manager, broker, etc) that would be genuinely alarming and could lead to auditing.

    3. Orv*

      The full letter notes that the letter writer lives in a country where most people don’t have Internet access at home, which kind of puts this in a different light.

  14. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Time for a very direct conversation letting the employee know what the process is for advancement, but also the fact that not being willing to help others out is going to be seen either as evidence against advancement or evidence toward pushing them out the door.

    OP3 – I think its odd. Not odd in that someone pops in on their day off, but odd that the employee needs to come in to work for internet access on their day off. While theoretically, we can use our work computer for non-work stuff (checks social media site for a bit), I’d be concerned that what’s happening on these PTO days is not at all work-related and that should give you pause. Maybe you overlook it if it happens once or twice, but if it is happening regularly, it probably makes sense to put a stop to it.

    1. Observer*

      I think its odd. Not odd in that someone pops in on their day off, but odd that the employee needs to come in to work for internet access on their day off.

      I can’t find the original letter, so I don’t know just how old it is, but looks like it’s on the older side. And this kind of thing was quite common in the earlier days of this blog.

    2. obvious gin-based reasons*

      Yeah, this really stuck out to me as well – does the employee not have internet at home, or library access? I realise it might be a super old letter, but someone working in an office job where that office is the only means they have of accessing the internet just feels… yeah, odd.

  15. Czhorat*

    “” I had them doing initial training together, as the technical skills are the same, but the higher level candidate has soft skills that this disgruntled employee lacks. “”

    The new employee isn’t really making the point that OP is wrong about him, is he?

    This is something we need to remember: soft skills are EVERY BIT as much a part of the job as technical skills, even in a technical role. If you can’t get along with your co-workers and won’t help when they need you then you’re not a very useful member of the team, now are you?

    My least favorite media is stuff like House, MD in which the main character can get away with being an anti-social jerk because he’s a SOOOPER GENIUS. In the real world, even if the employee were a technical standout (and it doesn’t even sound as if he is) the attitude makes his presence a net negative.

    IT’s too bad if it costs this guy his job, but it’s a lesson he needs to learn.

    1. Dinwar*

      Scrubs dealt with this too. Dr. Cox was a super-doctor, but had the interpersonal skills of a Tasmanian devil with a toothache. This was repeatedly referenced as to why he never moved up in the hospital. And when he did move into a more senior role, there was a steep learning curve for him.

      Doesn’t matter how good you are at the technical work, if your networking consists of “Be so good they are willing to put up with me” you can never move into any position that requires working with other people. Eventually you encounter people who AREN’T willing to put up with your antics.

    2. RVA Cat*

      This. How’d that turn out for Dr. Strange after his accident but before Marvel ensued? In the real world he’d just be a jerk on disability and maybe a good insurance payout.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also, how much *better* would so-called geniuses work be if they weren’t being jackwagons? Let’s just say a certain beloved show might have had more than one season…

    3. Keymaster the absent*

      I’ve had to train far too many IT techs out of the ‘technical skills are all that matters’ mindset. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it’s a lost cause.

      I hire people who can rebuild a SQL server with their eyes closed *while* not managing to piss off everyone in a 5 mile radius.

  16. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I’m kind of stuck on the part where you say he did not interview well enough for the mid-level position he applied for. I would encourage you to think more about that process and whether there were any red flags at that stage that would have suggested he was not a good fit for the entry-level position. Some things to consider might be how deeply you probed into not just his skills/suitability for that position but also whether he would be interested in staying in that position for a while, whether he was aware of your perception of his lack of skills in some areas, etc. If I apply for a position of “senior widget maker” at $86,000 a year and you offer me a position of “junior widget maker” at $55,000 a year, my acceptance of the lower level role doesn’t automatically mean I’m happy about it. I wanted and thought I was capable of being the senior widget maker! If I accept the position, it might be because I’m desperate for income to survive and my hope is that I’ll be able to quickly advance, whether on that team or a different team, to get to the income level I need to live comfortably. If you didn’t fully examine this person’s goals, that’s something to keep in mind for the future (maybe even near future, because it sounds like he is either going to be fired for his conduct at your company or is going to quit for a higher level role the second he has the offer in hand).

    1. AngryOctopus*

      If you accept the junior position but think you’re qualified for the senior, you still have to do the junior job. You can ask about moving up and skills you need in half a year to a year, but you cannot seethe in the junior job about how you think you deserve the senior one, and you won’t do things that are “beneath you”. You can go ahead and accept a senior job somewhere else if it’s offered, but the fact remains that for the first job, you were junior, and that’s how it was.

  17. Lizzianna*

    For #3, does this employee have access to any systems that are at risk for fraud? Inability/unwillingness to step away is a red (or at least yellow) flag in our internal control process.

  18. Immortal for a limited time*

    I’m with those commenters noting that an employee should not be allowed to come in to use the computer on a day off. The LW’s specific wording — coming in to use “the internet connection” — implies to me it’s for personal use. Oh, hell no. In most companies that would, at minimum, violate policy on appropriate use of company resources, not to mention leaving the business open to fraud, as was pointed out by others. I’d be worried about a lack of appropriate policies at that workplace.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      It sounds like they are in a country where it is not at all common to have a home internet connection, and library access is not what it is in the US.

  19. J!*

    I appreciate that the employee in LW #1 is a new hire, but I would want to want to know a lot more about what the “help” is before making a judgment. Are they working on a project together/collaboratively? Or did they ask the more junior hire to train someone in a more senior position, despite saying they’re less qualified? I can definitely understand bristling at the latter.

    I think the response is probably clear either way, not necessarily jumping straight to firing them but outlining that the higher position requires those specific “soft skills” and not just technical ones – what does that mean, how do they demonstrate that, etc.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      It sounds like the junior employee was asked to help the other new hire – the one who got the higher level position that the junior employee had originally interviewed for. And yeah, that can sting. There’s a risk in interviewing a person for a role and then offering them a lower level role instead, and this is part of it.

      I wonder if the LW has been explicit about why the new hire didn’t get the higher level role, and what skills they need to work on.

    2. SofiaDeo*

      I’ve been in situations where I as a senior hire, got trained on an internal process or piece of software by someone junior. Something along the lines of, that person’s skillset or job duties mainly involved that process or software, (in addition to other junior duties) whereas I would have broader duties that the process or software would be a subset of my much broader job duties.

      So refusing to teach part of the job to someone else when asked is a huge, huge red flag IMO.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yep. Say senior person is hired to do X, Y and Z. Junior person is the current in-house expert on Y, but has no interest in X or Z. It is not out of line to ask the junior person to train the senior on the in-house implementation of Y.

  20. jp*

    To the unwilling therapist– you are in a tough position, and you must re-direct this to the appropriate mental health professionals! In fact, putting this honestly to the student sometimes works to get through to them (ask me how I know). “Karly–you are going through a lot of serious stuff, and I can see you are really suffering.” [Pause while weeping and tissues may happen]. “But I’m not a person qualified to help you with this. I don’t know how [or some variation thereof]. But let’s make the phone call now to Office of Student Services and get you set up with someone who can help you [get over this break-up, cope with cancer in the family, get your work load under control] so you can feel better and focus on your work.”
    Follow through, make the call or send the email right there.

    When you are tempted to err in the wrong direction, remind yourself that this is actually the truth, that it’s inappropriate for you to be counseling them for all kinds of reasons (including, in your case, the workplace arena in which this is occurring), and that it is actually kinder to send them in a better direction. It’s irresponsible, really, to consider your personal wisdom and advice skills as substitute for directed counseling and therapy. So shut that down with a clear conscience.

    This advice has served me well for 30 years in a university setting, and I am happy to pass it on.

  21. Anon for this*

    I have this student issue with graduate students, who are often working alongside me for 5 years at a time. It’s hard, but I don’t have enough spoons to handle everyone’s outside-of-work problems as well as their work problems (and my own problems!). These scripts are helpful, but I think I need a few more ideas for long-term relationships if anyone has any. (I am a woman in a male-dominated field and seem more approachable than I want to be.) Also, has anyone else noticed an uptick in this since COVID? I’m not sure if the current students have fewer friends than the previous students or if the situation has reset what they think is appropriate.

    1. Lobstermn*

      I mean, the fundamental issue is that 80% of the people in grad school should do a different thing instead.

      1. Yorick*

        How is that the fundamental issue here? That’s not what makes them feel like their teachers/college supervisors are good sources of emotional support.

    2. Pam Adams*

      Definitely an uptick in students needing support, particularly with mental health issues post Covid.

    3. Anon reporter*

      Seconding—I also would like to hear what’s worked for others. Last term, I spent two days filing mental health reports and advocating for a suicidal student to be seen by a therapist at the student counseling center, only to be told that the counseling center has no appointments available for the next two weeks.

  22. House On The Rock*

    Re OP 1, I used to manage someone who continually asked me to justify why other employees were at a higher level than he was and how he could get there.

    As a newer manager (with no support from my own leadership, but that’s another tale), I made the mistake of humoring some of this in the name of “staff development”.

    As should come as no surprise, his behavior was a huge red flag. He constantly clashed with other staff, would make snide comments about “why do I have to do that, isn’t that a SENIOR’s job?”, would routinely throw my attempts to develop him back at me as “justification” for why he was just as good, or better than, his colleagues, and was just generally incredibly needy and difficult.

    I later came to find out that he was constantly applying for director level positions around our organization and bad mouthing me and our staff in the process. Because of the nature of where we worked, it was very hard to get rid of someone, but I was able to, essentially, put him out to pasture and give him work that didn’t screw anything up. (yes this was a dysfunctional place!).

    1. RVA Cat*

      It’s no surprise both problem employees were men.
      OP1 did not reveal the gender of the middle-level hire with soft skills, but I’m 90% sure they are a woman, or at least not a cis-het male. I feel like there’s a sexist spin to Disgruntled New Hire’s insubordination. But that’s just another data point in favor of firing him.

    2. Pescadero*

      “I used to manage someone who continually asked me to justify why other employees were at a higher level than he was and how he could get there. ”

      …and that is a question any competent manager should be able to answer with concrete details.

      I manager should be able to define the competencies necessary to excel, and should be able to explain to their employees how others have demonstrated those skills to get promoted.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        But it’s the continual nature of those inquiries that aren’t appropriate. If I explain to you why you’re not qualified to be a senior scientist right now and others are, I have no interest in having to reiterate that the next week.

        1. Dinwar*

          This. It’s one thing to ask during an annual review, or to ask in a one-on-one when you’re considering the next step in your career, but to ask at any frequency greater than “Occasionally” is a huge red flag. That suggests not that the person is interested in the information, but rather that they are looking to find ways to rules-lawyer their way into a promotion. Such people never are good at their new roles, and typically aren’t adequate at their current ones (though they always think they’re The Best Ever).

  23. Just me*

    With #1 I’m guessing that the successful candidate for the higher position had the manager skills for the job but needed the nitty gritty of the technical skills that were different from their previous position elsewhere. The disgruntled new hire definitely needs to be informed of exactly what is expected for the current position he holds (rather tenuously it sounds like) and all of the things needed in order to be actually qualified for promotion. Another 1:1 very soon is absolutely in order. It doesn’t sound like he had any clue as to how close he came to immediate firing for his refusal to help the other person.

  24. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    I think in LW1’s case, I’d respond differently depending on a few undisclosed things about the employee. If they’ve just graduated and don’t have much work experience, I’d have more patience and try to help them calibrate their expectations. If they’ve been in the workplace for a while and can be reasonably expected to understand workplace norms, I’d be more inclined to just let them go.

    Helping a young person who doesn’t know workplace norms could pay off with a very good employee, iff he’s willing to learn.

  25. JS*

    Shocked that he didn’t get the higher level position while demonstrating the lack of soft skills that it requires.

  26. DollarStoreParty*

    The “eligible for re-hire” question always stumps me, and I’m about to deal with it again – a former employee who left employment on their own, but is not eligible for rehire due to anger issues, recently lost another job – due to anger issues. I’m wasn’t their supervisor, but do work in an HR role, and they use me as a former employer reference. I don’t want to torpedo their career or job prospects, but I also don’t want to lie. I’ve tried talking to them about it, and they are in counseling, but they tend to gaslight me and say that it was never that bad and I’m remembering it wrong. Ten of us are not remembering it wrong!

    1. Observer*

      To be honest, I’m not sure why you are even questioning what you should say.

      This is a guy with anger issue *in the present*. And you have all the evidence you need that it is *not* going to change. Otherwise they would not be telling you that it never really happened. Counseling means nothing as they simply won’t accept responsibility for their issue. They are apparently also less than honest, so there’s that as well.

      Your moral responsibility is far more to potential victims of this behavior than to this person. And, legally, sidestepping this question could really come back to haunt you and your company if you fudge.

      Please do not worry more about someone dealing with the *legitimate* consequences of their behavior than the behavior and the (potential) victims of that behavior.

    2. DyneinWalking*

      “I don’t want to torpedo their career or job prospects”

      From what you say, they are doing the torpedoing themselves. If you worry about negatively affecting someone’s career by being honest, about things that are both relevant to the job and also recent, the problem isn’t you, it’s them.

      They could just not use you as a reference. Or if they really don’t have anyone else, they could, like… try to be friendly to you and apologize, without downplaying anything?

      Don’t think of you as separate from their career – as an HR person of their former employer, you are basically part of their work history. They are affecting their own career by their behavior towards you, a person they are using as a reference. You are under no obligation to undo the torpedoing.

      1. Observer*

        From what you say, they are doing the torpedoing themselves.

        This. 100%

        Don’t think of you as separate from their career – as an HR person of their former employer, you are basically part of their work history

        Exactly this.

        You are under no obligation to undo the torpedoing.

        Not only that, I would say the opposite. It’s not that you are obligated to torpedo his career, but you do have an obligation to protect others for falling victim to his inability and unwillingness to deal with his anger when the opportunity falls in your lap (as when you get a reference call).

  27. Angstrom*

    Manger: “Good morning, New Hire. Today I need you to do Perfectly Reasonable Job Function helping Other New Hire.”
    New Hire: “No. I won’t”

    I’m not seeing a lot of grey area here……

  28. AAM fan*

    I once had a new hire who immediately showed interest in multiple areas outside of the job for which they were hired. I told them we could explore professional development opportunities, but soon they were setting up meetings with people in other teams and telling them how to do their job while completely dropping every single task I had given them. I was quite literally meeting with HR to discuss exit strategies when they quit, which was a gift. This is a long way for me to say that LW may want to explore cutting their losses now.

  29. Mmm.*

    I wonder if the one who comes in on his days off to use the computer has a computer or reliable Internet access at home. If employees really shouldn’t be there on days off, reminding them of what a local library offers in terms of this may be worthwhile.

  30. Rebecca*

    I wonder if L#1 thinks they didn’t get senior because of technical skills and when asked to train the new senior, it’s irritated him. I would also be irritated if I thought that I was told I didn’t have enough experience to get a job but now I suddenly do have enough experience because I have to teach someone else who does not. The senior person presumably should have that technical experience enough to get the job in the first place. Plus they are getting paid more so they should know it. I would iterate that he needs to work on his soft skills and that’s why he didn’t get the job. But also knowing that if he’s getting this defiant early on he’s probably looking for a way out already and he probably won’t get any less disagreeable!

    1. Yorick*

      It doesn’t even sound like they asked him to train the senior level employee. They’re in the same training. Maybe they’re both expected to help each other with training issues. Or maybe they’re supposed to collaborate and he’s taking on a lower level role in that collaboration since he’s the more junior employee.

  31. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – the question is a general short hand for “If you had an appropriate role, would you be willing to rehire this person?” It’s not asking if you’re going to rehire them. Just if they would be a) eligible to be rehired, and b) if you would WANT to do that. Sometimes, those two things are not a perfect circle, but more of a Venn diagram.

    Eg. the employee was a great performer in some areas but not others – you might say, “Yes, we would rehire them but only in a role focused on X, and not in a role focused on Y.”

    also Eg. The employee was an okay performer but not stellar – you might say, “If we had an appropriate opening, we would consider rehiring the person, yes.” Not effusive, but yes, they’re rehireable.

    Or eg. The employee was amazing – “Absolutely, we’d hire them back in a heartbeat! They were fabulous!” The person on the other end of the line knows this doesn’t mean you’re going to or plan to hire the person, but rather that you heartily endorse their candidacy for any other company.

  32. Random Person*

    Bad advice on the work computer use. Most companies have policies against personal use. And overall it’s a poor professional behavior. Plenty of computers available at libraries for free.

    1. Observer*

      Plenty of computers available at libraries for free.

      Not necessarily. And it was certainly not the case when this letter was originally written.

      Also, I would imagine that the OP would be aware if their company had such policies, yet their concern was not about policy but their staff person’s ability to detach from work.

    2. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

      Conversely, though, many work IT policies explicitly state that work computers can be used for personal use provided everything you access is safe for work (personal banking fine; p*rn not fine) and it doesn’t interfere with your duties. I work for a Government organisation and the rules are that I can’t print anything that isn’t for work and if I sign up for/buy anything on a work laptop I have to use my personal email for it, not my Government one. Otherwise I am welcome to play Spotify while I work, shop on my lunch break, pay my council tax on the weekend, etc.

      1. Orv*

        I’ve worked for a couple of state governments and the rule was always that “de minimus” personal use was allowed.

    3. Keymaster the absent*

      I’ve spent 20+ years in IT and never encountered a ‘no personal use ever’ rule. It’s normally more of a ‘on your break time and don’t try and circumvent our security’. So no blocked sites, no private browsing (though we can see the traffic anyway), no downloading and installing anything, no excessive use, no video streaming and please make sure anything is SFW (we do block fanfiction sites).

  33. Pam Adams*

    On the student assistant issue- you might ask the student affairs group for advice. Perhaps the students can attend a training on available resources, which could both inform them and make them better resources for others.

  34. TX_Trucker*

    #3. Is it possible that the employee is coming to use the computer/internet for personal stuff and not working? Maybe they have a crappy computer at home. Or maybe they don’t have a good internet connection. Or maybe they are just lonely and want to be around other people.

  35. Oceans Away*

    As someone who has always worked in tech at more researchy-type places, I have come into the office on the odd day off. There were computers and good air conditioning and better bathrooms and snacks than a library. At the places I’ve worked in, no one batted an eye.

    1. Keymaster in absentia*

      I confess there’s been times I’d have loved to come in and sit in a darkened server room on my off hours. Clean environment, no people, constant temperature, air conditioning..

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